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$65M for Third World health – Creating models for fighting disease

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced $65 million in grants for health and nutrition in the Third World.

Harvard Medical School will get nearly $45 million to develop a model for controlling multidrug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. Another $20 million will go to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health for research into the vitamins and nutrients that will most effectively prevent illness in poor Third World mothers and children.

The Harvard grant will fund a partnership between the World Health Organization, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Massachusetts State Laboratory Institute, Massachusetts-based Partners in Health, Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine, and the Georgia-based Task Force for Child Survival and Development.

The group will work with the Peruvian National Tuberculosis Program for the next five years to control drug-resistant TB in Peru and hopefully to develop a model for other nations to follow.

Hundreds of thousands of cases of drug-resistant TB have been reported since 1997, jeopardizing the worldwide effort to eliminate the disease.

The Johns Hopkins grant will fund work by Alfred Sommer, who found in the early 1980s that small doses of vitamin A, which cost only pennies, not only protected children in the developing world from blindness but also from a range of killer infections, cutting their mortality rate by as much as 50 percent. His work launched a major worldwide effort to eliminate vitamin A deficiency in the Third World.

Today, Sommer and his researchers are trying to find out what other vitamins or minerals should be used in combination with vitamin A to increase the protective effect. The project is looking at pregnant mothers as well as children.

The money will be used to strengthen research already planned or underway in Nepal, Bangladesh, Ghana, Zanzibar and India. The projects are currently funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Institutes of Health.

For full story, go to the Gates Foundation here.

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